Canadian cyclist Michael Woods won stage 17 of the Vuelta a Espana, which started in Getxo and concluded in Balcón de Bizkaia today.
The EF Education rider crossed the line first in a time of 4:09:48. Second to complete the 157km stage was BMC Racing’s Dylan Teuns, while Team Sky’s David de la Cruz ended in third place.
Mitchelton-Scott’s Simon Yates held onto the red jersey by retaining his lead in the general classification.
With 62km to the finish the break of 26 riders, driven by Bahrain-Merida’s Vincenzo Nibali, had a gap of 8:20 to the peloton.
The riders were taking turns on the front as they started to gear up for the final 40km that included three categorised climbs as well as the last climb to the finish.
The Euskadi-Murias team led the chase in the peloton as the breakaway bunch reached the first climb of the Alto del Balcon de Bizkaia.
They managed to maintain their momentum to eventually bring the gap to the break down to 5:30 with 37km to the finish.
In the leading bunch, Lotto-Soudal’s Thomas de Gendt, who was second in the mountains classification, attacked near the top of the second climb to secure more points.
He was the first to reach the summit which resulted in him becoming the new holder of the blue polka-dot jersey. Riders then moved on to the Alto de Santa Eufemia with 24km left.
De Gendt set a fast tempo at the front of the break as he attempted to get to the top of the climb first, which he ultimately did and in so doing extended his lead in the mountains competition.
With 17km remaining, AG2R-La Mondiale’s Alexandre Geniez and EF Education First–Drapac p/b Cannondale’s Simon Clarke opened a gap on the descent, but soon Nibali was on the move as he rejoined the front bunch.
The stage was defined by the steep last climb, which started with 7km remaining.
When the leading group reached the foot of the climb they had a gap of four minutes to the peloton.
The first attack came from Clarke who created a small gap. BMC’s Alessandro De Marchi and Movistar’s Andrey Amador were soon on his heels, with the latter bringing Clarke back.
With 5km to the finish, De Marchi drove the pace in the leading group with teammate Teuns behind him.
De la Cruz led with 2km to go, while Teuns, Woods, Bora-Hansgrohe’s Rafal Majka, Cofidis’s Stéphane Rossetto and Katusha-Alpecin’s Ilnur Zakarin were in contact.
As De la Cruz made his way up the climb, only Teuns, Majka and Woods could keep pace, with the rest scattered behind.
With 1.3km to the line, De la Cruz accelerated with the trio behind him. This was followed by an attack from Majka with 800m to go and soon afterwards one from Woods.
Woods launched another attack with 400m left and held on to win the stage that featured the sixth summit finish of this year’s tour.
“My wife and I, my wife had a stillbirth two months ago, we lost the little guy, his name was Hunter. The whole time I was going up the climb I was thinking of him I wanted to win so bad for him and I did.”